In November of eighteen sixty-three, President Abraham Lincoln traveled to Gettysburg, Pennsylvania. He went there to make a speech at a ceremony establishing a military burial ground.
Five months earlier, Confederate General Robert E. Lee had marched his army up from Virginia to invade the North. The Union Army of the Potomac went after him. They met at Gettysburg in the bloodiest battle of the Civil War. The battle of Gettysburg lasted three days. General Lee threw his men against the Union Army. The northern soldiers refused to break. Lee, at last, had to stop fighting. Badly hurt, his army went back to Virginia.
Lee left behind a battlefield covered with Confederate dead. More than three thousand Confederate soldiers had been killed. Union losses were almost as heavy. Two thousand five hundred Union soldiers had been killed.
The terrible job of clearing the battlefield fell to the Union soldiers who had won the battle. Many thousands on both sides had been wounded. The wounded were moved to medical centers for treatment. The dead were buried.